Preparing Ourselves for an Open Source World

I have a lot of things in my mind that relate to the “Slow Library” movement these days.

With the release of the HUGE report on the Economic Impact of FLOSS on innovation and competitiveness of the EU ICT sector, I think Open Source is about to come out of the margins and into the mainstream.

Why? Well, largely because those who are aware of and have the capacity and knowledge to use & support open source software have large competitive advantages over those who use proprietary software.

But one thing that hit home for me, Mr. “Slow Library” advocate, was this recommendation (from the executive summary):

Avoid life-long vendor lock-in in educational systems by teaching students skills, not specific applications; encourage participation in FLOSS-like communities.

One way to apply this concept in the library school world is to teach databases and use different applications (Access, XML/XML-schema & MySQL for instance)  to demonstrate the same concepts.   In the open source world, to teach this way is no longer so cost-prohibitive.

In the Library 2.0 world, it may also mean saying “use Flickr” less and “Develop Online Networking Skills” more.   But how do you explain a skill and isn’t “use Flickr” a means to developing Online Networking Skills?  Learning to balance between applications to acquire knowledge and the necessary skills to store and retrieve knowledge has always been and will continue to be a skill for librarians of all sorts.   Knowledge Management ho!

This also reminds me of an article by Kathy Sierra about Users in “P” Mode.   Using the example of a camera always being in “P” mode, Kathy argues that some technological features are not used by users, not because the users don’t know how to change a mode technically, but because they do not understand why they would want to do it in the first place.

Another good example is anti-lock brakes in a car.   Everyone who can drive a car can use anti-lock brakes (uh — push the brake with your foot).   Not everyone understands what benefits anti-lock holds and in what circumstances someone may choose not to use them.

So, I recommended adding a add-in to Firefox on public computers.   A neat feature that’s L2 enough, but what can I do to encourage the public to use it?   Sure the public knows how to click a button on a browser.   Most of the even technophobiest public understands how to “tag” — write a word in a text box.   Big deal.   What many customers or patrons may not know is what “tagging” does to improve their information experience.

So, while writing a list of “top 10 no-brainers” all of the sudden [ssp warning] turned this blog into the fastest growing blog on WordPress for January 25 (and the 66th most popular blog for that day)[/ssp], there is a non-tech side to all those applications that is necessary for implementing them effectively.